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On 20 June 2002, the members of the Liaison Committee agreed a set of ten core tasks for Select Committees to guide their work.

In November 2012, the Liaison Committee proposed changes to the core tasks following a review of the effectiveness, resources and powers of select committees. The House endorsed the revised core tasks on when it debated the Liaison Committee’s report on 31 January 2013.

In 2019, the Liaison Committee undertook an inquiry into the effectiveness and influence of the select committee system, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the creation of departmental select committees. In its report, the Committee concluded that “The core tasks had a positive effect on the ability of select committees to plan and be held to account for their work”. But it considered that it was time to “restructure them” and it proposed “a shorter set of core tasks which include the “how” as well as the “what” of committee work”. It proposed the following core tasks:

Overall aim: To hold Ministers and Departments to account, and to investigate matters of public concern where there is a need for accountability to the public through Parliament.

To deliver this aim our core tasks are:
• Policy: To examine the policy of the department, including areas of emerging policy or where existing policy is deficient, and make recommendations.
This may include legislative scrutiny, post-legislative scrutiny, and scrutiny of delegated legislation where relevant.
• Implementation: To hold departments and arm’s-length bodies to account for implementation of committee recommendations. Too often inquiries come up with important recommendations, widely welcomed but left to gather dust on the shelf.
• Administration: To examine the administration of departments and their associated public bodies, including scrutiny of their strategy and their performance and management information.
This includes holding pre-appointment hearings where appropriate.
• Expenditure: To inform and support the House’s control of public expenditure by examining the expenditure plans, outturn and performance of the department and its public bodies, and the relationships between spending and delivery of outcomes, including effectiveness and value for money.
• Matters of public concern: To consider matters of public concern where there is a need for accountability to the public through Parliament, including the actions of organisations or individuals with significant power over the lives of citizens or with wide-reaching public responsibilities.

It then set out how committees would deliver the tasks through evidence taking; collaborative work; clear communication and follow-up work.

This briefing paper sets out the 2002, 2012 and 2019 versions of the core tasks. It also notes a number of earlier proposals and provides a background to the introduction of the first set of core tasks in 2002.

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